Freelance Reflections #55

I’m currently in Hastings, looking forward to doing a full feature set at Poetics at The Electric Palace. It’s the first indoor gig since the start of the pandemic, and I’ll be doing a career-spanning set, with work from 2010-2020!

Last night we had a ‘Women in Film’ screening of different poems, with my poem ‘Grandad’, produced by Muddy Feet Poetry. It was something I’d never done before, and it was incredible to be able to hold that space, as the Q&A section gave added meaning and context to the work, which meant it was much more impactful than simply watching the videos at home.

This week I started facilitating a new fortnightly writing group for those over 60, at Holborn House, which is an incredible community centre, which has lots of different activities for people to get involved with. I was even gifted a memoir from one member, and reading it just highlights the importance of personal histories, and how vital it is to keep our stories alive for other generations to learn about.

Freelance Reflections #43

So, I smashed my 300,000 steps goals for May, raising money for Leading Lights. You can still sponsor me and donate here. I also missed some steps when I went to play basketball and left my phone, but I recorded 307,372 steps.

I took some time off for the interment of my grandad’s ashes, and spent time with family. It was sad, but it was nice to be together finally and look back at these old photographs. I hope to visit again in the summer and reminisce some more through more photo albums.

Having had the half term break, this usually means less students for me, and I only had two, so it would be a great time to buy some of my books from my Big Cartel. Also, if you’re based in South East London, I’ll be part of the Camberwell Arts Market on Saturday 19th June, 9am-5pm. I’ll also be doing some bespoke poems there; you give the ingredients, and I’ll create a short poem for you.

I’ll also be doing my first in-person live show on Sunday 4th July as part of Simon Mole’s Poetry Picnic at Arts Depot, where I’ll be sharing a new poem written especially for children, aimed at a slightly older age range, probably between 9-13. It’s just under a month away, so I’m sure it’ll come round soon enough!

Otherwise, I’ve been keeping up walking alright, not always keeping to the 10,000 goal, but enjoying some sunsets ping pong along the way. It’s also been nice being indoors again at board game cafes, and now the sun is peeking through the clouds now and again, I’ve taken a few breaks to sit in the sun and read. I’m currently reading comedian Rosie Wilby’s The Breakup Monologues, which I’m reviewing for The Norwich Radical, so technically it’s also working. I’m really enjoying it so far.

Freelance Reflections #38

Last weekend was the ‘Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown’ exhibition. I went with my parents, and my mum could especially relate to Rachel Sambrooks’ beautiful poetry, alongside the visual artwork, since also losing her dad at the start of the year. Two of my poems were on display: the first one I wrote after his death, and the other simply titled ‘Grandad’, which I had written about last week in relation to the Muddy Feet Poetry video.

This week, I have started with a few more students again, and I’m slowly getting on top of things and starting better habits, with writing at least. I’ve felt quite stressed out with work at times, still feeling overwhelmed, but I’m feeling a bit lighter now. I also have made a few tweaks to a new book I’m self-publishing, ‘Selected Poems: 2007-2012’.

With my Nasty Little Press having came out in 2014, I felt this period would be nice to have as a kind of time capsule. I previously published ‘Carmina’s Poetry Tease’, but this work combines poetry with a kind of visual mixed media. Initially produced during my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, it’s a third of the size of the original. I got the proof copy, and needed to make some adjustments, and once I’ve approved the next copy, it’ll be available for global distribution via Lulu.

‘Leopard print is my favourite colour’

I’ll also make some available on my Big Cartel, though as it’s print-on-demand, it’ll take a little longer to come through, but much better for the poet than buying on Amazon! In other news, I treated myself to this lovely rose and peony candle from Art Wow, which is a cool website with affordable artwork. The candle is in my favourite colour combo (also the colours of the pansexual flag) – blue, pink and yellow! As I write this, I’m also wearing my Biffy Clyro ‘There’s always space for the arts’ t-shirt*. I’m excited about seeing them live in November! I also got to eat this lovely lunch with my flatmate for her birthday, from The Guava Kitchen in Forest Hill (I recommend the guava balls!)

*100% of proceeds will go towards supporting Create (Arts) Limited to improve the lives of society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people through creative arts. (Registered Charity No 1099733).

Freelance Reflections #37

This week I’ve only had one student, and I also did my tax for 2020-21. Let me tell you, ignorance is bliss! It looks like I’ll be paying a third of my income until the end of the year, with the other third on surviving (and hopefully the last third on saving for the next tax bill…) My head is buried deep still. Now would be a good time to buy a copy of ‘Circles’ off me from my Big Cartel:

The plus side, I’ve been sticking to having at least an hour of poetry writing each day, and have started workshops with Simon Mole to produce poems for children and families, alongside the ongoing Red Sky Sessions with Apples and Snakes. This week we had Adam Kammerling, and it was nice to see fellow Roundhouse Collective (Kid Glove) member, Antosh Wojcik get a name check. 

Muddy Feet Poetry also put out my video ‘Grandad’ out on Tuesday. As I said in my Instagram post, poetry has always been my way of processing difficult things. I am nowhere near processing this, but it felt good to honour my grandad in this way, in a poem that is sad, but also joyful in that it touches on fond memories. I hope others grieving in this time especially enjoy this piece and that it allows you time to grieve. 

I ventured out this week for a meal outdoors, trying to balance between the overwhelm of unfinished to-do lists and enforced relaxation. I’m a little worried that summer may still be bad work-wise, but even if it is, I can comfort myself that I’ll still have some savings and at least I’ll be able to focus on some creative projects. And hopefully sunshine. 

I’m actually writing this on my phone in a park in between my second vaccine appointment and a massage (to support the beauty industry y’know). Some kids just walked past and one asked where I got my “Jordon’s” from and I said I couldn’t remember, “some vintage shop”. One took the piss two steps away and I realised what a middle-class hipster wanker I must have sounded like, all the while they were probably from eBay.

Remember this Saturday is the free exhibition Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown, by Jo Sharpe and poet Rachel Sambrooks at Studio 9 Oaks Park Studios in Carshalton on the 17th and 24th April, which you can register for online on Eventbrite.

Freelance Reflections #36

Last week’s She Grrrowls wasn’t as smooth as usual, but it was nice to see both the poets involved sharing poems, as well as audience members. I made a point of not bringing my laptop away when visiting family in Hastings for a picnic, but ended up writing a draft of a book review for The Norwich Radical on the journey on my phone!

I still worked on Bank Holiday Monday, but on Tuesday I got to use my wetsuit and booties for the first time in the 9-10 degree pool in Brockwell Park. It was so freezing, and strangely difficult to swim more than two lengths at a time. I’d never been in such cold water to my mind.

With less of some work, I’ve been trying to get on top of boring admin tasks, but also been writing a lot more and catching up with NaPoWriMo prompts, as well as attending the amazing Apples and Snakes’ Red Sky Sessions with Bohdan Piasecki, which have so far included Malika Booker and Jacob Sam-La Rose, two absolute poetry heroes.

I found out today that after being longlisted for Butcher’s Dog, I didn’t make the cut, which I’m gutted about. I never expect to be accepted when submitting poems, so to get so close makes it extra disappointing somehow. Then again, it is also all the more reason to try again in future.

To end on a positive note, successfully recorded two poems with Muddy Feet Poetry on Thursday outdoors in Deptford. I had learnt one by heart, and was super nervous, but Pete and Stanley were so lovely and supportive throughout, I felt really happy afterwards.

The main poem we recorded is also part of Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown, by Jo Sharpe and poet Rachel Sambrooks. There will be a free exhibition at Studio 9 Oaks Park Studios in Carshalton on the 17th and 24th April, which you can register for online on Eventbrite.

It’s a strange experience writing about something like grief and putting it out into the world; sometimes I feel like artists get it because we all do it, but maybe it’s a bit odd to other people, but it is all part of how we process the world and how we connect.

Freelance Reflections #27

The third week of the Living Record Festival has come and gone, with nearly 10 tickets sold so far, and some kind words from Sally Proctor, the Community Director at Slung Low. I hope to see some more colourful pictures in the final week. Please listen to ‘Circles’ and send me your designs via @carminamasoliver on Instagram.

Last week was also my grandad’s funeral; it was and is surreal and sad, but the sun shined that day. I’ve been watching films like ‘Saint Frances’ and ‘The Book of Life’, and have felt exhausted and overwhelmed, trying to be kind to myself, but still not fully giving myself what I needed. I listened a lot to podcasts like ‘The Good Grief Podcast’ with Alex Di Cuffa, and Griefcast with Cariad Lloyd.

On Friday, I tried to be kind to myself, knowing I had She Grrrowls on Instagram Live in the evening. I took myself off for a walk to my local park to make the most of the sunny weather, and as my grandad also had a sweet tooth, having eaten some lemon curd biscuits in his honour on the day of the funeral, before She Grrrowls, I made myself a hot drink to have with some shortbread biscuits and a blackcurrant and apple pie.

I was glad I didn’t cancel She Grrrowls, as with nine acts on the open mic, it was a full house. I read a poem about Yorkshire that my grandad had written, and a poem I’d written for him as part of his eulogy. In speaking of death and grief, I’ve also shared one of my favourite books on sadness: Sad Book by Michael Rosen.

As I write now, there is a flurry of snow outside my windows, and I’m safely inside after a long walk to Greenwich yesterday, covering 19km. Any sun soon turned to cloud and then rain. Exhausted, I had an array of Korean dishes for dinner, and played the ‘7 Wonders’ board game a couple of times. It is the unbelievableness of the situation that allows me to enjoy these moments, but at other times I lean into the grief, allow myself to feel the shock and sadness of such unexpected loss.

14.09.13 – The Art of Losing Isn’t Hard to Master

loss workshop flyer

Glamour, Nudity and Melted Chocolate

So, last night was the third Glam Slam in a row I’ve been too. It’s only on once a year but it is always so fun and I’m always partial to a theme, plus the host, Ernesto Sarezale is super-organised like myself.  So, a good excuse to post pictures like the one below.  My theme was ‘loss’ and I had to wear blue.  I had a ‘San Francisco Loves You’ t-shirt that I got on holiday but I got make-up on it so had to change – gutted.

Scarf: East

Fan: gift

T-shirt: Jaguar Love

Skirt: H&M

Tights: Topshop

Shoes (seen in end picture): Vintage ‘Charles’ from Beyond Retro

Lipstick + Foundation: Estée Lauder

Mascara: Maybelline

Eyeliner: Collection 2000

Eye stars (can’t really see here): unknown

Nail Varnish: ‘Carrie’ SATC

Anyway, I met my friend Hannah after she finished work and went to Nando’s.  The loyalty card was confusing me (mainly, because the staff seem to be confused) so I ended up with two chicken breasts.  So much for loosing this weight I’ve put on).  It was delicious as ever though and I enjoyed my extra big portion, though felt a bit of a pig).  We went to The Book Club and I got a drink, before getting a seat downstairs early.  Cat Brogan was on first and fabulous as ever.  Marcus Reeves, on the timer, who was ‘challenging Annie Lennox’, remembered me from last time which was nice.  He has a collection out called ‘Sighs Ten’ haha. When he said he remembered me I said ‘thank you’, afterwards realising that’s probably a strange thing to say.

Chris Young, last year’s winner also performed, who I couldn’t remember before he started taking off his clothes and doing last year’s poem, but he was good, check him out here.  It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter about who you’re having sex with… anyone can understand the bliss of when someone likes your company and not just your cock/pussy.  Emanuel Xavier was down from New York and he was amazing.  At the time I was stressing about missing my train back and he was so good I forgot about it – and believe me, that says something!  I would have liked to talk to him, especially as between acts he congratulated me.  PLUS, I’m going to New York at the end of July so it would have been cool to know where to go.

Angry Sam was first to compete in the ‘Loss’ category and after he finished I thought there was no way I was going to get through. I think I performed with him at Limehouse Church and thought he was good, and tonight I was sure he was going to win it.  He did a poem about an ex from the point of view of her, and got the audience to join in with ‘you’re just a bastard’.  I did ‘Space Station’ off by heart and did an intro that lead on from Sam’s.  I felt it was the best I’d ever done (gutted my cam ran out of batt) it so it was really hurtful when the scores came… two 8s, one 7, and a 5.  It wasn’t so much the scores, but the group of girls that picked the ‘5’ seemed to be laughing about it, and I wanted to cry.  But I didn’t.  I ended up winning the category with 28 points.  Marcus said Sam’s name though (he got 27) and had to correct it, so when Sam came over with flyers it was a bit awkward.  I was texting at the time, and stressing out about my train, so was in a bit of a fluster and stupidly said ‘oh, well done, by the way’ when I realised it was him.  All he said was ‘so, you won it then?’ so I felt like I’d said the wrong thing.  I looked at the flyer and said I was meaning to go anyway; it was for seeing Chester P, who I saw support Jamie T when I had this weird illness that was like Glandular Fever but they never found out what it was exactly.  I thought it was a great gig so am hoping to go along with a friend I want to catch up with.

People came up to me in the break and both congratulated me and said how the girls that voted ‘5’ were dickheads and stuff.  I couldn’t really stay down after that… though I guess I went from happy to stressed because my dad said I needed to get the train before 11 and I knew I wouldn’t make it out that early.  I wish I’d checked the times myself now!  So, at the end of the first couple of rounds, me and Emma Jones went to collect our trophies.  I knew after seeing her that she would win the whole thing – she did an amazing costume change ‘Work’ poem which was literally 3mins on the dot: perfection.  Her second poem was done in the accent of a lot of the girls I went to school with, as she is a drama teacher in South London (brap brap… do the kids still say that?) where she came up with many witty things in place of GCSE including much of the typical activities for these kinds of girls, such as going to the chicken shops after school (yes, there is a previous photo of me posing with a chicken box… you can take the girl out of…etc).  She did a final poem on winning comically stating that if you see anyone from Clapham, the best thing to do it to ‘slap ’em’ haha!  I did ‘Drama’ for my second poem and thought I did okay, but wished I’d put more thought into which poem I did).

Nothing better than a man between the legs: me and my trophy for Best Loss Poem

Alison Brumfitt won the ‘Lust’ category with her amazing poem about how, despite popular opinion, sex is better than chocolate.  And she did it whilst throwing chocolate bars at the audience, and then dripping melted chocolate down her body.  Oh yes, for this category, you had to wear lingerie/underwear or less!  I was surprised to see Alain English bare all (both literally and metaphorically) in a poem about masturbation, and Keith Jarrett in nothing but a hat and Superman pants.  By the by, he has an Action Man body to match those gorgeous brown eyes.  And I mean that in a totally objective way.  There was also a guy that did a poem in some old Mickey Mouse PJs, and he mentioned something about mental illness, and I think he was referring to anti-psychiatry, which I’ve been interested in since my dissertation (which I will post after I’ve graduated).  However, his poem was about having sex with patients, which reminded me of David Cooper’s idea of ‘bed therapy’ which I believe to be possibly unethical due to the idea of consensus… though he claimed the person who the poem was based on would gain consent, this may not always be reliable in mental health patients.  That said, if I was locked up in an institution and could never have sex, it is likely I’d be driven further into insanity.

Ray Antrobus won the ‘Wig’ category (and taking third place in the final round, beat me by a couple of points) and he told a poem about being the sober guy at a party, as he doesn’t drink.  It made me of Matt and how I encourage him to drink, tsk tsk, bad Carmina.  In the second round he did one about how your voice changes depending on who you’re talking to, which, loyal readers will know, is a subject I have a love/hate relationship with… in the vein of ‘yeah, I am from South London, and yeah, this is a South London accent, I’m just middle class, bitch.’  Carmina: South London, but a bit posh too innit.

It ended a bit before midnight.  After congratulating Emma for winning I legged it to Liverpool Street, got the tube to Oxford Circus (shat myself cos I forgot I couldn’t change at bank as Waterloo & City line wouldn’t be running that late) and then got the tube to Vauxhall, where THANKFULLY I saw the train was coming.  Some guys ahead of me started running, so I joined in and followed them up the wrong platform.  Not only that, but I FELL FLAT ON MY FACE!  I was around the corner so the guys didn’t see, and I managed to stand up by the time they turned around (I overheard it was platform 3) but I had grazed near my elbow and wrist, bruised/cut my finger and chipped a bit of my trophy.  The train was delayed for 2 minutes, so I sat down for a bit and got my breath back.  I had needed some water (and the toilet) for ages and so my throat was as if I’d just done a proper 30min run!  I got the train safe and sound and was back home by 1am.

Things I hate:

  • Living in Worcester Park and not East London.
  • Saying I’ve been doing this poetry bizz for 5 years… can I lie and say a year?

Things I love (just to balance it up):

  • Finally winning a category.
  • My bedroom.